Complex Problems Need Solving

Identifying the Need

Good products address real needs and solve important, unresolved problems. Understanding the needs requires interactions with people close to the problem—end users, people with disabilities, their families and therapists. The problem is best understood by observing people attempting tasks, using existing equipment and asking questions: how do they do it, why do they do it that way, what else have they tried, and how they would like to do it.

What’s available?

Too many people reinvent the wheel before looking at what’s already available. A thorough investigation of existing products and how people are currently addressing the need is an essential step before spending time and money on a great idea. A critique of existing products includes functional testing and identification of their strengths and limitations, in light of “the ideal” product.

User-centered design

You must know who you are designing for and seek to fully understand their needs, desires and preferences. People differ, so it is important to involve a variety of individuals.

End users are involved throughout the design process: ask questions and observe them to understand their needs and difficulties, ask for feedback on design concepts and user interface details, present different design options, and have them try prototypes through the development process—including use in their environments.

Involving key people

The people we design for are the end users AND their families and others they work with, such as care attendants, therapists, rehab engineers and rehab equipment suppliers. They do not live in a vacuum–they may live at home with their family, or in a group home or residential care facility. They work, go to school and participate in community or adaptive recreation programs.

People across environments are impacted by and interact with the products. Depending on the nature of the design project, different people are invited to provide input and feedback—further illuminating the needs and offering insightful feedback based on their experiences.

Next: Product Development Process